« PreviousContinue »
“A certain author brought a poem to Mr. Cowley, for his perusal and judgment of the performance, which he demanded at the next visit with a poetaster's assurance; and Mr. Cowley, with his usual modesty, desired that he would
be pleased to look a little to the grammar of it.
“To the grammar of it! what do you mean, sir, would you send me to school again " “Why, Mr. H–, would it do you any harm 1" ‘This put me on considering how this voyage of literature may be made with more safety and profit, expedition and delight; and at last, for completing so good a service, to request your directions in so deplorable a case; hoping that, as you have had compassion on our overgrown coxcombs in concerns of less consequence, you will exert your charity towards innocents, and vouchsafe to be guardian to the children and youth of Great Britain in this important affair of education, wherein mistakes and wrong measures have so often occasioned their aversion to books, that had otherwise proved the chief ornament and pleasure of their life. I am, with sincerest respect, sir, Yours, &c.’ - • St. Clements, October 5.
“Mr. Bickenst AFF,-I observe, as the season begins to grow cold, so does people's devotion; insomuch, that instead of filling the churches, that united zeal might keep one warm there, one is left to freeze in almost bare walls by those who, in hot weather, are troublesome the contrary way. This, sir, needs a regulation that none but you can give to it, by causing those who absent themselves on account of weather only this winter-time, to pay the apothecaries' bills occasioned by coughs, catarrhs, and other distempers, contracted by sitting in empty seats. Therefore, to you I apply myself for redress, having gotten such a cold on Sunday was sevennight, that has brought me almost to your worship's age from sixty, within less than a fortnight. I am, your worship's in all obedience,
. . • W. E.”
with a very good house in our neighbourhood, where there are three daughters of a very differ. ent character and genius. The eldest has a great deal of wit and cunning ; the second has good sense, but no artifice; the third has much vivacity, but little understanding. The first is a fine, but scornful woman ; the second is not charming, but very winning ; the third is no way commendable, but very desirable. The father of these young creatures was ever a great pretender to wit, the mother a woman of as much coquetry. This turn in the parents has biassed their affections towards their children. The old man supposes the eldest of his own genius; and the mother looks upon the youngest as herself renewed. By this means, all the lovers that approach the house are discarded by the father for not observing Mrs. Mary's wit and beauty; and by the mother, for being blind to the mien and air of Mrs. Biddy. Come never so many pretenders, they are not suspected to have the least thought of Mrs. Betty, the middle daughter. Betty, therefore, is mortified into a woman of a great deal of merit, and knows she must depend on that only for her advancement. The middlemost is thus the favourite of all her acquaintance, as well as mine; while the other two carry a cer. tain insolence about them in all conversations, and expect the partiality which they meet with at home to attend them wherever they appear. So little do parents understand that they are, of all people, the least judges of their childrens' merit, that what they reckon such, is seldom any thing close but a repetition of their own faults and infirmities. There is, methinks, some excuse for being particular, when one of the offspring has any defect in nature. In this case, the child, if we may so speak, is so much the longer the child of its parents, and calls for the continuance of their care and indulgence from the slowness of its capacity, or the weakness of its body. But there is no enduring to see men enamoured only at the sight of their own impertinencies repeated, and to obscrve, as we may sometimes, that they have a secret dislike of their children for a degeneracy from their very crimes. Commend me to lady Goodly ; she is equal to all her own children, but prefers them to those of all the world beside. My lady is a persect-hen in the care of her brood; she fights and squab. bles with all that appear where they come, but is wholly unbiassed in dispensing her favours among them. It is no small pains she is at to defame all the young women in her neighbourhood, by visits, whispers, intimations, and hearsays; all which she ends with thanking heaven, ‘ that no one living is so blessed with such obe. dient and well-inclined children as herself. Perhaps," says she, “Betty cannot dance like Mrs. Frontinet, and it is no great matter whether she does or not; but she comes into a room with a good grace; though she says it that should not, she looks like a gentlewoman. Then, if Mrs. Rebecca is not so talkative as the mighty wit Mrs. Clapper, yet she is discreet, she knows better what she says when she does speak. If her wit be slow, her tongue never runs before it.” This kind parent lists up her eyes and hands in congratulation of | own good fortune, and 3.
is maliciously thankful that none of her girls are like any of her neighbours; but this preference of her own to all others is grounded upon an impulse of nature; while those, who like one before another of their own are so unpardonably unjust, that it could hardly be equalled in the children, though they preferred all the rest of the world to such parents. It is no unpleasant entertainment to see a ball at a dancingschool, and observe the joy of relations when the young ones, for whom they are concerned, are in motion. You need not be told whom the dancers belong to. At their first appearance, the passions of their parents are in their faces, and there is always a nod of approbation stolen at a good step or a graceful turn. I remember, among all my acquaintance, but one man whom I have thought to live with his children with equanimity and a good grace. He had three sons and one daughter, whom he bred with all the care imaginable, in a liberal and ingenuous way. I have often heard him say, “he had the weakness to love one much better than the other, but that he took as much pains to correct that as any other criminal passion that could arise in his mind.” His method was, to make it the only pretension in his children to his favour, to be kind to each other; and he would tell them, ‘that he who was the best brother, he would reckon the best son.”. This turned their thoughts into an emulation for the superiority in kind and tender affection towards each other. The boys behaved themselves very early with a manly friendship; and their sister, instead of the gross familiarities, and imperti. nent freedoms in behaviour usual in other houses, was always treated by them with as much complaisance as any other young lady of their acquaintance. It was an unspeakable pleasure to visit, or sit at a meal, in that family. I have often seen the old man's heart flow at his eyes with joy, upon occasions which would appear indifferent to such as were strangers to the turn of his mind; but a very slight accident, wherein he saw his children's good-will to one another, created in him the god-like pleasure of loving them because they loved each other. This reat command of himself, in hiding his first impulse to partiality, at last improved to a steady justice towards them ; and that, which at first was but an expedient to correct his weakness, was afterwards the measure of his virtue. The truth of it is, those parents who are interested in the care of one child more than that of another, no longer deserve the name of parents, but are, in effect, as childish as their children, in having such unreasonable and ungoverned inclinations. A father of this sort has degraded himself into one of his own offspring, for none but a child would take part in the passions of children.
Our next regards our friends and kindred claim;
From my own Apartment, October 11.
I FIND in the registers of my family, that the branch of the Bickerstasis from which I am descended, came originally out of Ireland. This has given me a kind of natural affection for that country. It is therefore with pleasure that I see not only some of the greatest warriors, but also of the greatest wits, to be natives of that kingdom. The gentleman who writes the following letter is one of these last. The matter of fact contained in it is literally true, though the diverting manner in which it is told, may give it the colour of a fable.
• To Isaac Bickerstaff, Esquire, at his house in Great Britain. - - * Dublin. ‘Sir, Finding by several passages in your Tatlers that you are a person curious in natural knowledge, I thought it would not be unacceptable to you to give you the following history of the migration of frogs into this country. There is an ancient tradition among the wild philosophers of this kingdom, that the whole island was once as much infested by frogs, as that wherein Whittington made his fortune, was by mice. Insomuch, that it is said, Macdonald the First, could no more sleep, by reason of these Dutch nightingales, as they are called at Paris, than Pharaoh could when they croaked in his bed-chamber. It was in the reign of this great monarch, that St. Patrick arrived in Ireland, being as famous for destroying vermin as any rat-catcher of our times. If we may believe the tradition, he killed more in one day than a flock of storks could have done in a twelvemonth. From that time, for about five hundred years, there was not a frog to be heard in Ireland, notwithstanding the bogs still remained, which in former ages had been so plentifully stocked with those inhabitants. • When the arts began to flourish in the reign of King Charles II. and that great nonarch had placed himself at the head of the Royal Society, to lead them forward into the discoveries of nature, it is said, that several proposals were laid before his majesty, for the importing of frogs into Ireland. In order to it, a virtuoso of known abilities was unanimously elected by the society: and intrusted with the whole management of that affair. For this end he took along with him a sound able-bodied frog, of a strong hale constitution, that had given proofs of his vigour by several leaps that he made before that learned body. They took ship, and sailed together until they came within sight of the hill of Howth, before the frog discovered any symptoms of being indisposed by his voyage'; but, as the wind chopped about, and began to blow from the 1 rish coast, he grew sea-sick, or rather land-sick ; for his learned companion ascribed it to the particles of the soil with which the wind was impregnated. He was confirmed in his conjecture, when, upon the wind's turning about, his fellowtraveller sensibly recovered, and continued la t
good health until his arrival upon the shore, where he suddenly relapsed, and expired upon a Ring's-end car in his way to Dublin. The same experiment was repeated several times in that reign, but to no purpose. A frog was never known to take three leaps upon Irish turf, before he stretched himself out, and died. “Whether it were that the philosophers on this side the water despaired of stocking the island with this useful animal, or whether, in the following reign, it was not thought proper to undo the miracle of a popish saint; I do not hear of any further progress made in this affair until about two years after the battle of the Boyne.* “It was then that an ingenious physician, to the honour as well as immorovement of his native country,t performed what the English had been so long attempting in vain. This learned man, with the hazard of his life, made a voyage to Liverpool, where he filled several barrels with the choicest spawn of frogs that could be found in those parts. This cargo he brought over very carefully, and afterward disposed of it in several warm beds, that he thought most capable of bringing it to life. The doctor was a very ingenious physician and a very good protestant; for which reason to show his zeal against popery, he placed some of the most promising spawn in the very fountain that is dedicated to the saint, and known by the name of Saint Patrick's well, where these animals had the impudence to make their first appearance. They have, since that time, very much increased and multiplied in all the neighbourhood of this city. We have here some curious inquirers into natural history, who observe their motions with a design to compute in how many years they will be able to hop from Dublin to Wexford; though, as I am informed, not one of them has yet passed the mountains of Wicklow. ‘I am further informed, that several graziers of the county of Cork have entered into a project of planting a colony in those parts, at the instance of the French protestants; and I know not but the same design may be on foot in other parts of the kingdom, if the wisdom of the British nation do not think fit to prohibit the further importation of English frogs. I am, sir, your most humble servant, T. B."
There is no study more becoming a rational creature than that of natural philosophy; but, as several of our modern virtuosi manage it, their speculations do not so much tend to open and enlarge the mind, as to contract and fix it upon trifles.
This in England is in a great measure owing to the worthy elections that are so frequently made in our Royal Society. They seem to be in a confederacy against men of polite genius, noble thought, and diffusive learning; and
* The battle of the Boyne was fought July 1, 1600.
it Sir Hans Sloane, who was of Scotch extraction, but a native of Irelan l, seems to be the intonions physician a findel to here; hot the hazardous voyage to Liverpool seeins rather a stroke of humour than a tilatter of fact : or, perhaps, it is an allusion to the doctor's voyage to Jamaica, ridicooled by Dr William Kino. in his who insi. cal tract, in titled, A Voyage to the I-land of onjamai."
choose into their assemblies such as have no pretence to wisdom, but want of wit; or to natural knowledge, but ignorance of every thing else. I have made observations in this matter so long, that when I meet with a young fellow that is an humble admirer of these sciences, but more dull than the rest of the company, I conclude him to be a Fellow of the Royal Society.
No. 237.] Saturday, October 14, 1710.
• In nova fert animus mutatos dicere formas
Of bodies chang'd to various forms I sing. Dryden.
From my own Apartment, October 13.
Coxixo home last night before my usual hour, I took a book into my hand, in order to divert myself with it until bed-time. Milton chanced to be my author, whose admirable poem of ‘Paradise Lost' serves at once to fill the mind with pleasing ideas, and with good thoughts, and was therefore the most proper book for my purpose. I was amusing myself with that beautiful passage in which the poet represents Eve sleeping by Adam's side, with the devil sitting at her car, and inspiring evil thoughts, under the shape of a toad. Ithuriel, one of the guardian angels of the place, walking his nightly rounds, saw the great enemy of mankind hid in this loathsome animal, which he touched with his spear. This spear being of a celestial temper, had such a, secret virtue in it, that whatever it was applied to, immediately flung off all disguise, and appeared in its natural figure. I am afraid the reader will not pardon me, if I content myself with explaining the passage in prose, without giving it in the author's own inimitable words: -
These thoughts made very lively impressions on my imagination, which were improved, instead of being defaced, by sleep, and produced in me the following dream: I was no sooner fallen asleep, but methought the angel Ithuriel appeared to me, and, with a smile that still added to his celestial beauty, made me a present of the spear which he held in his hand, and disap. peared. To make trials of it, I went into a place of public resort. The first person that passed by me, was a lady that had a particular shyness in the cast of her eye, and a more than ordinary reservedness in all the parts of her behaviour. She seemed to look upon man as an obscene creature, with a certain scorn and fear of him. In the height of her airs I touched her gently with my wand, when, to my unspeakable surprise, she fell in such a manner as made me blush in my sleep. As I was hasting away from this undisguised prude, I saw a lady in earnest discourse with another, and overheard her say, with some vehemence, ‘Never tell me of him, for I am resolved to die a virgin ' I had a curiosity to try her; but, as soon as I laid my wand upon her head, she immediately fell in labour. My eyes were diverted from her by a man and his wife, who walked near me hand in hand after a very loving manner. I gave each of them a gentle tap, and the next instant saw the woman in breeches, and the man with a fan in his hand, It would be tedious to describe the long series of metamorphoses that I entertained myself with in my night's adventure, of whigs disguised in tories, and tories in whigs; men in red coats, that denounced terror in their countenances, trembling at the touch of my spear; others in black, with peace in their mouths, but swords in their hands. I could tell stories of noblemen changed into usurers, and magistrates into beadles; of free-thinkers into penitents, and reformers into whore-masters. I must not, however, omit the mention of a grave citizen who passed by me with a huge clasped bible under his arm, and a band of a most immoderate breadth; but, upon a touch on the shoulder, he let drop his book, and fell a-picking my pocket. In the general I observed, that those who appeared good, often disappointed my expectations; but that, on the contrary, those who appeared very bad, still grew worse upon the experiment; as the toad in Milton, which one would have thought the most deformed part of the creation, at Ithuriel's stroke became more deformed, and started up into a devil. Among all the persons that I touched, there was but one who stood the test of my wand; and, after many repetitions of the stroke, stuck to his form, and remained steady and fixed in his first appearance. This was a young man, who boasted of foul distenapers, wild debauches, insults upon holy men, and affronts to religion. My heart was extremely troubled at this vision. The contemplation of the whole species, so entirely sunk in corruption, filled my mind with a melancholy that is inexpressible, and my discoveries still added to my afliction. In the midst of these sorrows which I had in my heart, methought there passed by me a
couple of coaches with purple liveries. There sat in each of them a person with a very venerable aspect. At the appearance of them the people, who were gathered round me in great multitudes, divided into parties, as they were disposed to favour either of those reverend persons. The enemies of one of them begged me to touch him with my wand, and assured me I should see his lawn converted into a cloak. The opposite party told me with as much assurance, that if I laid my wand upon the other, I should see his garments embroidered with flower-de-luces, and his head covered with a cardinal's hat. I made the experiment, and, to my great joy, saw them both without any change, distributing their blessings to the people, and praying for those who had reviled them. Is it possible, thought I, that good men, who are so few in number, should be divided among themselves, and give better quarter to the vicious that are in their party, than the most strictly virtuous who are out of it ! Are the ties of faction above those of religion ?—I was going on in my soliloquies, but some sudden accident awakened me, when I found my hand grasped, but my spear gone. The reflection on so very odd a dream made me figure to myself, what a strange face the world would bear, should all mankind appear in their proper shapes and characters, without hypocrisy and disguise 2 I am afraid the earth we live upon would appear to other intellectual beings no better than a planet peopled with monsters. This should, methinks, inspire us with an honest ambition of recommending ourselves to those invisible spies, and of being what we would appear. There was one circumstance in my foregoing dream, which I at first intended to conceal; but, upon second thoughts, I cannot look upon myself as a candid and impartial historian, if I do not acquaint my reader, that upon taking Ithuriel's spear into my hand, though I was before an old decrepit fellow, I appeared a very handsome, jolly, black man. But I know my enemies will say this is praising my own beauty, for which reason I will speak no more of it.
Storms at sea are so frequently described by the ancient poets, and copied by the moderns, that whenever I find the winds begin to rise in a new heroic poem, I generally skip a leaf or two until I come into fair weather. Virgil's tempest is a master-piece in this kind, and is indeed so naturally drawn, that one who has made a voyage can scaree read it without being sea-sick. Land-showers are no less frequent among the poets than the former, but I remember none of them which have not fallen in the country; for which reason they are generally filled with the lowings of oxen, and the bleat
ings of sheep, and very often embellished with a rainbow. Virgil's land-shower is likewise the best in its kind. It is indeed a shower of consequence, and contributes to the main design of the poem, by cutting off a tedious ceremonial, and bringing matters to a speedy conclusion between two potentates of different sexes. My ingenious kinsman, Mr. Humphrey Wagstaff, who treats of every subject after a manner that no other author has done, and better than any other can do, has sent me the description of a city-shower. I do not question but the reader remembers my cousin's description of the morning as it breaks in town, which is printed in the ninth Tatler, and is another exquisite piece of this local
It is ridiculous for any man to criticise on the works of another, who has not distinguished himself by his own performances. A judge would make but an indifferent figure who had never been known at the bar. Cicero was reputed the greatest orator of his age and country, before he wrote a book ‘De Oratore;’ and Horace the greatest poet, before he published his “Art of Poetry.’ This observation arises naturally in any one who casts his eye upon this last-mentioned author, where he will find the criticisms placed in the latter end of his book, that is, after the finest odes and satires in the Latin tongue.
A modern, whose name I shall not mention, because I would not make a silly paper sell, was born a Critic and an Eraminer, and, like one of the race of the serpent's teeth, came into the world with a sword in his hand. His works put me in mind of the story that is told of the German monk, who was taking a catalogue of a friend's library, and, meeting with a Hebrew book in it, entered it under the title of ‘A book that has the beginning where the end should be.’ This author, in the last of his crudities, has amassed together a heap of quotations, to prove that Horace and Virgil were both of them modester men than myself; and if his works were to live as long as mine, they might possibly give posterity a notion, that Isaac Bickerstaff was a very conceited old fellow, and as vain a man as either Tully or sir Francis Bacon. Had this serious writer fallen upon me only, I could have overlooked it; but to see Cicero abused is, I must confess, what I cannot bear. The censure he passes upon this great man runs thus, ‘The itch of being very abusive is almost inseparable from vain-glory. Tully has these two faults in so high a degree, that nothing but his being the best writer in the world can make amends for them.” The scurrilous wretch goes on to say, that I am as bad as Tully. His words are these : ‘And yet the Tatler, in his paper of September the twenty-sixth, has outdone him in both. He speaks of himself with more arrogance, and with more insolence of others.” I am afraid, by his discourse, this gentleman has no more read Plutarch than he has Tully. If he had, he would have observed a passage in that historian, wherein he has, with great delicacy, distinguished between two passions which are usually complicated in human nature, and which an ordinary
.* Altered, when Pope published the Miscellanies, thus:
* These three last lines were intended to ridicule the practice of modern poets, who make three lines rhyme . together, which they call triplets, and the last line, two or more syllables longer than the rest, which they call an Alexandrine.